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HOME > Biographical > 100 New Yorkers of the 1970s > WESTSIDER MAUREEN O'SULLIVAN
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Great lady of the movie screen


As recently as 10 years ago, most of the motion pictures filmed in this country had a single run at the theatres, and then were seldom seen or heard from again.

Television has changed that. Now, with longer broadcasting hours and the abundance of new channels, vintage movies are enjoying a second life, often with a bigger audience than the first time. Maybe that's why the name Maureen O'Sullivan is practically a household word even today. Between 1930 and 1965 she made dozens of films, ranging from Marx Brothers comedy (A Day At The Races) to classics of English literature (David Copperfield, Pride and Prejudice) to Tarzan films, in which she played Jane.

But unlike so many of her contemporaries, Maureen is neither dead nor retired. She maintains a busy schedule of acting, writing, traveling, and enjoying her status as a mother of five and a grandmother of many.

Maureen shows me around her large, beautiful apartment facing Central Park, right across the hallway from Basil Rathbone's last home. "I keep this part for the children," she says, indicating a section of several rooms. There are photos of her children everywhere, including a good number of her actress daughters Mia and Tisa Farrow. Mia lives in England and Tisa is in California, but they still get together frequently.

"I'm doing an autobiography now. It's about halfway done. My agent has the manuscript. But I'm not writing any more until I see if there's any interest in it. … I started it two years ago, then put it away. I wasn't even interested in it myself. Then a friend of mine, John Springer, had me to lunch. He said, 'You ought to do an autobiography.' I said I had already started one. … So I went back and worked on it some more, and condensed it into 10 pages. I had to do it myself — every word, syllable, comma."

She recently spent five weeks in upstate New York playing one of the leads in The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams. The critics had nothing but praise for her portrayal of the ambitious mother, and one described Maureen's acting as "genius."

The stage is not the only place where Maureen employs her dramatic talents. Shortly after completing the Williams play, she went to Albany, New York to do a reading from The Wayward Bus for the state legislature. "They're trying to get a new bill through Congress to get money for a program for more halfway houses for women alcoholics," she explains. "I believe in that kind of thing."

One of the last plays she did in New York............
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